Girl Meets Grill and Thoughts on the “Chef Crush” Phenomenon

victoria —  September 27, 2005 — Leave a comment

Last night was the first night that yours truly found herself “on a station” in the restaurant of Hotel Chi Chi. I worked the grill. Granted it was a slow night and I made all of one New York strip, three filets, a burger and 7 or so chicken breasts. Oh, and some toasted deli sandwiches. Anyway, I figured I was doing okay as long as no one sent their steaks back as too raw or too cremated and if G. (who looks so much like my baby brother it is unnerving at times) didn’t throw me on the grill. I am grill mark free this morning and there were no irate customers breaking down the elevator to room service. G. is gently coaxing me along to work saute at some point in the near future. I am rather nervous about the prospect but excited, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the working conditions in restaurants, how frequently people hook up, the whole mentor thing, my wild past and the concept of the “chef crush.” Generally, women are outnumbered in the kitchen. Hotel Chi Chi is mostly an exception as there are a number of women working there and the chef and executive sous are both women. Still there are, generally, more men. It’s a hot and sticky environment, rather close quarters, long hours, many opportunities for innuendo when discussing food and eating… I am certain you can see where I am going with this.

As a happily married woman it is interesting to look on this in a detached manner of sorts. Most of my co-workers are married or attached as best I can tell. There is still innocent flirting and it’s clear that people don’t turn that off completely, regardless of their relationship status. Honestly, I think part of it is the physical nature of the work. It’s hard not to connect the action with the mechanism in that watching someone turn huge chunks of meat or put on exam gloves to form crab cakes and not have it remind you of other physical things.

Writing the above paragraph and rereading it, I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t just me. I have always associated the hedonistic pleasures of eating and sex. I can partly lay it at Ms. Te’s feet for saying, lo those many years ago in college, that people tend to engage in eating like they engage in sex (or more bluntly people eat like they f*#k). So, perhaps it is me. But I do think you can extrapolate that theory out to extend to how people cook. Those who are more detail oriented may pay more attention to the little things in other contexts. I am certain if I were inclined or had copious amounts of free time I could set about to design a whole classification system for the lovin’ potential of different styles of cooking. There’s an Ask Foodie Porn for you.

I think the whole “chef crush” thing plays into the student/teacher thing as well. One of my biggest crushes in college was on a philosophy professor. Many people, and in this case I don’t think it’s just me, tend to identify with someone who has mastery of the skill or knowledge he or she is imparting. It’s similar to the psychiatrist/patient transference in that being closer to that person would be the same as being closer to or possessing the knowledge of that person. Tends to take the steam out of it as fantasy fodder.

And yes, I have some chef crushes, I have already admitted my tendency to be hot for teacher in the past, but at 32 versus 22 I have a better grip on reality and, honey, I know what I got at home is the best there is. I find it rather amusing at this point and it is interesting to see it in others as a spectator. I guess you can’t take the writer out of the girl, even when she’s knee deep in pan jus.



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